Lesson Plan - Get It!
Imagine you are hanging out with your friends, and you are all suddenly hungry for tacos!
Your friend tells you about a Facebook post she saw — the TacoCopter! She says all you have to do is download a phone app, put in your email address, and then a drone will deliver tacos to your front door.
Sounds great! Let's sign up!
- Would you believe that the TacoCopter is nothing but a hoax?
It's a fake company offering a fake service that is too good to be true!
Plenty of people fell for the hoax back in 2012 after they saw posts on social media.
- How many people do you think gave their email addresses and then waited outside looking up at the sky?
Their tacos were never delivered.
The Tacocopter sensation is one of the most famous hoaxes in recent history. Keep reading to discover other famous hoaxes and identify ways to judge their truthfulness.
- If a helicopter delivering tacos is not real, what about tree-bearing spaghetti noodles?
On April 1, 1957, the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) hilariously celebrated April Fools' Day with fake footage of a family in southern Switzerland harvesting fresh noodles from the family spaghetti tree.
Few people living in England then had ever eaten spaghetti, so they had no idea how it was made (with flour and water).
Watch the video footage below.
Seems silly today, but many of the estimated eight million people who originally watched this three-minute documentary called the BBC to find out how to obtain seedlings for the spaghetti tree.
This video was one of the most widespread hoaxes in the history of television!
Today, with computer-generated graphics and more advanced editing tools, it can be even more challenging to determine whether what we see is authentic.
While a tree growing spaghetti is harmless fun, some hoaxes that go viral today, easily garnering attention and believers online, can be dangerous.
- What are hoaxes?
- How can you check the authenticity of materials on television, the internet, or social media?
What Is a Hoax?
In short, a hoax is a deliberate lie.
When a hoax is meant to be funny, we don't concentrate as much on the fact that it is a deception. However, tricking others into believing or accepting something false as genuine or true can also be malicious.
Hoaxes cover a wide range of subjects — horrible news about a personality, warnings about a virus or serious health threat, discovery of something unknown, conspiracy theories, and many others.
If you receive a message online that seems like it might be a hoax, there are a few things to look for.
- Is there an absence of a credible source or no source at all?
- Is there an absence of the author's name or origin of the information?
- Is there a request to forward the message to as many people as possible?
- Is there a presence of a threat or warning if the message is ignored?
By themselves, hoaxes are not harmful as long as you know what to do when you receive one.
The power of hoaxes comes from their ability to multiply quickly, causing many people to believe false information or deliver malware (computer viruses) hidden within them.
The first part is easy to understand. A hoax claiming you can microwave an egg to cook it could hurt someone who tries it out only to have the egg explode. That is dangerous.
The hidden dangers in forwarding hoax messages, however, are not always so obvious. Some possibilities are noted below.
- ability to hide or delete files on your computer or make them unusable
- discover your credit card and other financial information
- gather your personal and private information (i.e., usernames, passwords, etc.)
- expose your computer to multiple sites that send you unwanted advertisements
To learn more about hoaxes, check out What actually is a hoax? or watch the video below.
Getting Rid of Hoaxes
Luckily, the best defense against hoaxes is common sense!
Even if your inbox filters out spam, you may still receive a forwarded message from a friend or family member who believed the hoax.
Here are some helpful tips to avoid hoaxes.
- ⇒ Use the guidelines above to decide if something is a hoax or a fact.
- ⇒ Avoid signing up or subscribing to a website with your email address.
- ⇒ Always clear your browsing history, especially using a public computer.
- ⇒ Discuss possible hoaxes with others whose opinions you trust.
- ⇒ Do not forward any messages from sources you cannot verify.
The internet is part of your everyday life, allowing you to access information or communicate with others instantly.
As technology becomes more advanced, some people use it to exploit and even victimize others. Therefore, you need to think and reflect on any information you receive before you take action. That's the only way you can help stop widespread lies, hoaxes, rumors, and fake news.
Keep going in the Got It? section to check your understanding!